“I always preach, I didn’t get here from being the most athletic guy, the fastest guy, the tallest guy, or the strongest, I got here from my mind.”
And, that’s also what he respects so much about Kobe Bryant.
“That’s something when I watch Kobe interviews or listen to Kobe talk, he’s mentally on another level, when I listen to him, I relate to that.”
Russell is saying the right things, although following through with a Kobe-like mentality is different from talking about it. We’ll see where Russell ultimately falls on that scale.
It’s been discussed plenty that Russell didn’t have a great Summer League, that he was trying to do too much, and he struggled to catch up with the speed of the game. It’s also almost meaningless — plenty of players who had rough Summer Leagues had good seasons, while the list of Summer League MVPs who didn’t do much in the league is long. What matters is what Russell learned and how he grows from that experience. Can he apply those lessons when the games get real in late October?
That will be the true test of his mentality, because the learning curve for point guards in the NBA is steep.
Kareem Rush on Lakers during Shaq/Kobe feud: “We had a big man alliance and a guard alliance”
By the start of the 2003-04 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were title contenders breaking apart at the seams from the weight of the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant feud. This isn’t new news, both Gary Payton and Karl Malone have talked about it before.
How bad was it? How about “camp Kobe” and “camp Shaq” bad.
Kareem Rush spent his first two NBA seasons in the middle of the Lakers war, for the final two seasons of the Kobe/Shaq era, and he talked about it on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Tom Byrne & Rick Mahorn (you can listen to the interview below).
“Yeah, it was like a real issue. We actually had like a separation of the team. We had a big man alliance and a guard alliance. I had to pick Kobe’s side.”
How deep was that split? For a while Shaq would not let long-time Laker trainer Gary Vitti (who had been with the team since the Showtime era, and is just now entering his final year) tape him up before games because he was allegedly a Kobe guy.
Now for the “what ifs.” As Shaq has said, could the Lakers have won three more titles if that group stayed together?
“Shaq got three Finals MVPs and I think Kobe wanted his, so it didn’t work out for us. We definitely had talent to win more than three titles.”
“I think we could have probably tied Mike, or surpassed Mike. I guess six. Everybody talks about Bill Russell’s 11; no player will ever come along that will win 11 championships unless they reduce the league to 10 teams. So you shouldn’t even bring Bill up. So now Mike, when you talk about the pinnacles of championships you always gotta go with Mike. So Mike has six. I think we could have either tied that or got that.
“But if “if” was a fifth we’d all be drunk, Susan.”
It’s just speculation, but could a non-bickering Lakers squad have beaten the Pistons in 2004? The Spurs in 2005? Reached the Finals and defeated Dwyane Wade’s Heat (without Shaq) in 2006? We can go on and on here, but six sounds reasonable.
Then again, I’m playing around with an “if” fifth of Jefferson’s Presidential bourbon here.